Michael Lewis

Army women’s soccer standout Elizabeth Betterbed believes in character first

by Michael Lewis November 16, 2009 in Women’s Soccer


Elizabeth Betterbed seems to be the living embodiment of the old Army recruiting slogan: Be all you can be.

As a senior at the United States Military Academy, Betterbed is ranked No. 1 in her class, is a Deputy Brigade Commander and an important member of the Army women’s soccer team.

For her achievements, Betterbed has been selected one of 10 women’s finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

She loves it at West Point.

“After school every day, I get to play soccer,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Betterbed’s days are long and productive.

She wakes up at 6:30 a.m., goes to formation and then breakfast. Then its off to four hours of morning class. After lunch, there’s another formation, more classes, soccer practice, dinner and then homework. A soccer game could change the latter part of the schedule.

“If I’m not being busy, I find myself antsy and getting restless,” Betterbed said.

The Fox Island, Wash., native said “a nice night is 10:30 p.m.” to go to bed. But with so many things on her plate, that doesn’t happen as much as she would like.

And let’s not forget her responsibilities as a deputy brigade commander.

“We mimic a regular brigade,” she said. “I have duties, meeting with people. I can check on how things are going.”

Let’s say students are struggling or failing a course, Betterbed will help organize a Saturday study session.

Betterbed has never had to worry about stumbling in school. She has a 4.235 GPA. She is ranked No. 2 in academics, No. 3 in military and No. 8 in physical.

While accomplishments are impressive, Betterhead has not been perfect. She struggled with a Combat Swimming Survival course during plebe training.

“I really, really had a miserable time in that class,” she said.

Cadets were placed in a room with simulated machine gun fire. They had to swim for survival.

Betterbed received a B plus.

As a mechanical engineering major, Betterbed felt she could not be in a better role.

“There are a lot of engineering majors here,” she said. “We all work together. You’re not sitting in the library punching numbers on a calculator. You’re sitting in a group.”

Her current project is working on a bionic foot as an artificial limb for amputees.

“That’s the coolest thing about engineering,” Betterbed said. “At the end of everything there is a result.”

So it shouldn’t be surprising that when it came time to pick a college, Betterbed wanted to be challenged.

“I wanted more than to just go to college and study,” she said.

She found the USMA.

“The more I learned, the more I liked it,” she said. “It’s a sense of purpose. We know what we will do after graduation. That’s very rewarding for me.”

For Betterbed, it is the possibility of earning a Rhodes Scholarship, which would allow her to study for two years in England.

After that, deployment somewhere in the world, including Afghanistan or Iraq, is a possibility.

“There’s a very good possibility,” she said.

“We just choose our branches. Part of the main reason I chose engineering was because there is a chance to help. You’re building something at the end of the day where I will affect people’s lives. I just want to start building stuff.”

If she is deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, Betterbed realized she would be putting herself in harm’s way.

“There is a risk,” she said. Anywhere we go to there’s going to be a risk. I don’t think there is a need to be terrified.

“It’s good to be a little bit afraid. It’s a new situation for anyone going over. I’ve been preparing for this since June 2006. Good preparation and good training will reduce the risk.”

The Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award honors senior college student-athletes who excel on and off the field. A student-athlete‚Äôs attributes are considered—character, classroom, community and competition.

Asked what she thought was the most important trait, Betterbed did not hesitate in answering: “Absolutely character.”

She felt that the other attributes come from character.

“If a person’s No. 1 quality is character, they will do well in class and in other areas,” she said. “No question that’s the most important thing.”

No one has to remind Betterbed about the importance of teamwork. An attacking player in high school, she became a central defender for the team’s sake in her first two years. It proved to help the team to 12 shutouts in 2008.

This season Betterbed has moved to midfield. Army hasn’t done as well as last season with a 6-8-2 record as of Oct. 21, but Betterbed is optimistic.

“Coming off last year’s season, we had pretty high hopes,” she said. “We haven’t delivered on that yet. We’re confident things will pick up.”